BROWNIE: Storm emerge from weekend the pick of the bunch
The Storm showed the Rabbitohs how to win an NRL final (AAP Image/Action Photographics, Renee McKay).
I predicted a few weeks back that Manly were the team to beat in this year’s premiership, and while that hasn’t changed if they can keep their stars on the field, the fall-out from this weekend has made their task that much harder.
With everyone fit and on the paddock, Manly look like world-beaters. Now, with doubts around the availability of Matai, Lyon, King and others, they’re on shaky ground.
On the other hand, the Melbourne Storm looked very impressive against Souths, grinding the Rabbitohs into the turf with disciplined semi-finals football. With Bellamy at the helm, they are just the best at lifting their intensity at the right end of the season.
They really threw down the challenge to the title favourites, Manly and the Bulldogs, and looked the team most likely last weekend.
From my experience as a coach and player, good form going into the semis is the key to success, more so even than having a star-studded or experienced playing roster and coach. Though that does help a lot, of course.
Canterbury and Manly both entered the finals in good form and their game, physically, at least, was the toughest. Ball control was quite poor, but they really got stuck into each other.
The Cowboys entered their match against the Broncos on a roll and while they played an out of form side, they look strong. With Thurston and Bowen on board, and in form, they are always a threat.
But outside of the Storm, it was Canberra that looked the most impressive to me.
They seem to produce a never-ending stream of good young players and those ones that have come into the side over the past few years have performed particularly well.
Souths have looked out of sorts recently and they will face a much more committed and in form Canberra than what they faced earlier in the year.
When they played Canberra then, who were out of form, they put a big score on the Raiders by targetting Sam Williams with Dave Taylor. But Sam Williams is looking much more comfortable and confident now.
It’s been a long time since Souths beat a top 8 side, so they will need to play very well to beat Canberra.